Monday, December 13, 2010

"The Stranger" ,.......or, how to become what you were meant to be


"Well we all have a face, that we hide away forever, and we take them to show ourselves when everyone is gone.  Some are satin, some are steal, some are silk and some are leather....there the faces of the Stranger but we love to try them on" 

Sorry, Billy Joel, I am sure those lyrics are wrong (doing it from memory, was that album really 1977???) but I have been singing that song for a week now and I could not figure out till yesterday.  I think I realized it during my 20 mile run yesterday in the cold and snow.  It was the most amazing run, I started at 8am at Kennesaw mountain, it was kind of warm and rainy.  I took some extra clothes that I really didn't need because I had heard the temp might drop, thank GOD!  I ran the 17 mile loop and the first 90 minutes were actually warm, as the morning progressed it dropped about 20 degees, the wind picked up and when I crested Kennesaw Mountain at about 3 hours into the run, it was snowing.  I couldn't feel my hands or legs (I was in shorts :-) and I was as happy as I have been in ages!

What does this have to do with the song "The Stranger" by Billy Joel, you ask?  Well, I think I realized my "stranger" is a PURE RUNNER.  I have been running on and off, mostly on, for 33 years.  When I started running it was to get in shape for my other crazy sport I did before triathlon, Motocross.  I was this height and about 165lbs (my normal weight for the past 10 years has been 205, ranging between 193 at Ironman in 1999 and 220 for a brief stint where I thought I wanted to get on stage as a bodybuilder).  When I got to college I continued running a bit but then I got into weight lifting and completely changed my body.  Since I started doing triathlons in 1992, I have tried to tow the line between skinny triathlete/runner and buff bodybuilder, not doing a good job at either.  I can still remember my advisor in Graduate School standing me up in front of my physiology class to show what it was like to someone to try to train 2 different energy and muscle systems at once:  "he is not a very good triathlete and he is not a very big or lean bodybuilder". Love that guy!  Keep in mind, I have been able to stay at a weight and body type I like (6'2" and between 200-210lbs) for about 15 years and get away with some decent results in my sport, including being able to run sub 7 minute miles with no joint pain what so ever....I am truely blessed and I know it but things are beginning to change and my "denial" phase is over.

Anyway, fast forward to today.  I have now found a new sport, off road ultra running, that has re-sparked my love of training, maybe more than any other sport has.  Still, up until a few months ago, I was still trying to lift heavy weights and maintain all of my muscle mass, while trying to get better at this sport.  It took a meltdown and suffering for hours in my last ultra (December, 2009, 40miles in 8hours 55 minutes) to make me realize it was time to embrace "The Stranger".   

I decided to allow my body to "morph" into a pure runner for this next 50mile race and see how I do both psychologically and physically.  You see, I enjoy having some muscle on my body when I go to the beach but what I REALLY enjoy is the feeling of running long distances in nature without pain or struggling due to excess body weight.  So, I guess what you could say is my public persona is a weight lifter who happens to try to run long distances but my "stranger face" that I really like to try on is a pure runner.

So, how am I doing so far with this plan?  From my peak I am down about 11lbs (broke 200lbs for the first time since 1999) and consistently running/cross training 400+ minutes per week.  This week's 3hour, 15 minute run was COMPLETELY PAIN FREE and I loved EVERY MINUTE OF IT.  I am, of course, doing weight training 2x per week to maintain my core strength, prevent injuries and try to lose mostly body fat and not lean mass as I drop weight but my program is specific for running performance, not for aesthetic body shaping.

My 50mile run is about 14 weeks away, my longest run so far has been 3.5 hours (about 20 miles) and I am feeling great.  So great, in fact, I have started surfing the really "dark side" of Ultra Running, 100 mile races (lets hope Heather is not reading this :-)

Blessings to you all and stay true to your "stanger", we all have one!